I just had my birthday this past month and though it is not such a big event as an adult, I remember looking forward to getting gifts as a kid. Whether it was a new toy or a game or….new socks (!?!). It was a joy to see them and consider how they would make my life more fun (well, except for the socks). As we get older, we often start to see the value of giving over receiving; being able to impart joy or help someone is a quality that, I believe, is a reflection of being image bearer of God. At a recent Bible study, I learned that this same generous God, distributed gifts (Greek: “charismata”) among us as His church (Rom 12:4-6a):
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”
This is further reinforced in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7:
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them…Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
Scripture teaches us that our different gifts were given to be used for one another (i.e., we have been given gifts that were intended to keep on giving). Here are a few steps we can take to flesh that out in practice:
Discover and confirm your own gifts: Scripture clearly emphasizes and lists out specific spiritual gifts like prophecy, teaching, encouraging, leadership, and mercy (cf. Rom 12:4-8). But don’t just limit your own self-assessment to Paul’s list. Start at what you are naturally good or for what you have a passion. Ask God, in prayer, to reveal your gifts to you. Check if others have affirmed them as gifts and virtues in you. You may need to ask for feedback from those whom you trust, which can be scary, but better to know than be self-deceived. You might be surprised to find out you have gifts that you never thought you had! Also, you may have skills from specialized training or you may have interpersonal skills that allow you to effectively engage and relate to people. Consider if there are ways you can use these skills to be used for God’s Kingdom. Remember, God HAS GIVEN you gifts – you just need to find out what they are!
Help others to know their gifts: Okay, maybe you have your own gifts figured out. What else can you do? Hebrews 10:24-25 says: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” One way we can spur one another on toward love and good deeds is to encourage one another by affirming gifts in others. I’d be the first to admit that sometimes it’s hard to objectively assess your own gifts, but perhaps you feel a lot more confident seeing others using their gifts and affirming them. An encouraging word can go a long way in motivating a person to use his/her gifts more intentionally towards others and for God.
Finally, cultivate your gifts: Although many gifts seem natural to people, others require investment of time and energy. We need to be exercising our gifts to learn where we can do better or improve on them in service to God. If this is challenging right now, consider going back to the great Giver of all gifts for wisdom and discernment. In our regular devotion and prayer times, we ought to worship God and ask Him to remind us how best to use our gifts.
Brothers and sisters, during this pandemic, many of the gifts that God has given members of our church cannot be utilized in the same way as before. Gifts like hospitality and being able to visit people and spend time with them, but that does not mean God wants us to stop using them for His Kingdom and to build up the church. We should not be like that servant who buried his talent in the ground (Matt. 25:18) only to disappoint the owner in the end. Be the gift that God intended that keeps on giving.
John Chung is a Ruling Elder and serves on the Worship Arts team.